Potso Mathekga of Grapeseed Trading (Supplied) ~ Supplied
Johannesburg – Helping to increase the number of sustainable small businesses in South Africa is inarguably a key factor in growing the country’s economy.
However, more needs to be done to encourage female entrepreneurs.
According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), only 39% of South African women are likely to pursue entrepreneurship (against 61% for men).
Over the past 12 years, The Hope Factory has helped to develop both start-up and established businesses. Of the entrepreneurs who are currently on the Entrepreneur Support Programmes in both Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth, 68% are women.
One recent success story is Potso Mathekga from Grapeseed Trading. She is part of the Johannesburg Entrepreneurship and Support Programme, which has a strong focus on mentorship and helping business owners focus on "working on their business and not just in their business".
Grapeseed Trading manufactures a maize-based non-alcoholic drink which can be consumed as an energy booster, a thirst quencher or a meal replacement.
“I got the recipe from my grandmother Maggie in 2004. We started by testing the market, making small batches of the drink and holding tasting sessions," said Mathekga.
"The feedback we received encouraged us to find bigger premises and start the business on a larger scale in 2006."
The four main players in the business used their own money to kick start the business.
"We have been on The Hope Factory’s Entrepreneurship and Support Programme since January this year. Following their advice, we were able to sign up 92 new customers in the first three months," said Mathekga.
"I was advised to visit corner and spaza shops and get Maggie’s Original Mageu onto the shelves. We are now looking forward to signing up bigger shops as customers."
Working with her mentor Busi Raphekwane, Mathekga has been able to set a range of goals for each area of the business, all the while making sure they are measurable, specific and achievable.
As well as one-on-one mentorship, entrepreneurs on the programme have access to tailored workshops including topics of finance and costing.
According to Mathekga, since attending and implementing what she learnt, her quarterly turnover has increased by 32%.
Raphekwane believes that mentors can play a vital part in helping to develop businesses.
She sees their role as one designed to help business owners overcome the challenges they’re facing in their business and to achieve their goals.
“A mentor’s role is to be someone you have to be accountable to, who will hold your hand,” said Raphekwane.
And it seems that "hand holding" is another important criteria to help businesses grow.
Another of Raphekwane’s mentees is Nwabisa Mayeng from Beautiful Beginning.
“The journey of an entrepreneur can be a difficult and lonely one, shadowed by doubt and sometimes fear. At times, I was so overwhelmed by these emotions that I could not see beyond them," said Mayeng.
"There are always opportunities, but because I was plagued by this constant state of doubt, it became difficult to fathom how to exploit those opportunities."
This is where her mentor stepped in.
"I cannot over-emphasise how great she has been with me. She has motivated and inspired me," said Mayeng.
Like most entrepreneurs she knows, Mayeng used to underestimate the value of mentorship, but her mentor has proven her wrong and continues to do so with her positive approach.
"We believe that entrepreneurs who make use of programmes such as those run by The Hope Factory and which feature a large mentorship component are well-placed to succeed,” said Karl Kumbier, CEO of Mercantile Bank, which is a key sponsor of the Johannesburg programme.
Research has shown that 80% of entrepreneurs who have mentors working alongside them survive long term, versus only 45% who don’t have a mentor.
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